The Nigeria Centre for Disease and Prevention Control has provided an update on the national response to the resurgent diphtheria outbreak in the country.
The Director-General, NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, said this at the Diphtheria National briefing on Thursday in Abuja.
Adetifa expressed gratitude to the public health workforce for their diligent efforts in preventing and responding to the outbreak in spite of the challenges they face.
According to the Director-General, as of Thursday, there have been 15,060 reported suspected cases of diphtheria, with 9,478 confirmed cases across 137 Local Government Areas in 20 states, including the Federal Capital Territory.
He said: “The breakdown by state shows that Kano has the highest number of cases at 7,747, followed by Yobe with 841 cases.
“The data also revealed that the majority of the confirmed cases, 71.5 per cent were aged between 1-14 years, with infants accounting for less than one per cent of the cases.
“It was noted that most of the confirmed cases had not been vaccinated against diphtheria, with 59.8 per cent being either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.”
In response to the outbreak, Adetifa said the NCDC had deployed National Rapid Response Teams to the affected states, offering on-site surveillance and response support.
He, however, lamented that security challenges had limited accessibility to some locations in some of the affected Local Government Areas.
He said: “The laboratory network has been instrumental in conducting preliminary and confirmatory testing at both sub-national and national levels.
“Currently, there are 18 laboratories in the Diphtheria Laboratory Network across 13 states, with ongoing optimisation efforts in Jigawa and Zamfara.
“The NCDC has also provided training and technical support to laboratory personnel across states.”
Adetifa said that risk communication and community engagement have been prioritised in addressing the outbreak.
He added: “The NCDC has developed and disseminated public health advisories on diphtheria, as well as social behavioural change materials in collaboration with partners.
“Regular media engagements, school engagements, and social listening on social media platforms are being utilised to raise awareness and address misinformation.
“In terms of case management, Standard Operating Procedures for Diphtheria Antitoxin (DAT) use in health facilities and treatment centres have been developed and disseminated.
“Diphtheria Treatment Centers/Wards have been established in affected states, and the availability of DAT and IV erythromycin has significantly reduced the case fatality rate.”
Adetifa advised Nigerians to be aware of the signs and symptoms of diphtheria, such as fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, and red eyes.
According to him, prompt presentation to healthcare facilities or designated diphtheria treatment centres is encouraged for individuals with suggestive symptoms.
He said: “Vaccination with the Pentavalent or TD vaccine is emphasised as the most effective protection against diphtheria, with the Federal Government providing free vaccines at all Primary Healthcare Centers nationwide.”
The NCDC Director-General urged Nigerians to avoid sharing unverified information and to rely on official government channels for accurate and verified information.
“The ongoing vaccination campaign in all states is an opportunity for parents and caregivers to ensure their children aged 0-14 years are vaccinated,” he advised.
The UNICEF Country Representative in Nigeria, represented by Dr. Edwardo Celades, the Chief of Health, appreciated dedicated responders and health workers who have been working tirelessly to treat patients, conduct surveillance, perform laboratory tests, and administer vaccinations.
Celades highlighted the incredible achievements that have been made in a short period, including the vaccination of over 3.2 million children and the treatment of over 6.5 million children.
“This success is attributed to the leadership of organisations like the NCDC, NPHCDA, and the Federal Ministry of Health, as well as the unwavering commitment of the frontline workers,” he said.
Calades emphasised the collective commitment of all stakeholders to bring an end to the outbreak, no matter the challenges they may face.